By bus from Sapa, Vietnam to Muang Khoua, Laos

Sapa Rice fields. 

This blog post is about getting away from Sapa, Vietnam to Laos through the northest border point Tay Thang. We did our trip in July 2014, and I am writing this because there was such a huge amount of different information. Hope this helps with the travel plans.

First of all, it was quite easy and our hostel (Green Valley Hotel) in Sapa took care of the ticket business all the way from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam (where we changed to another bus to cross the border and then head ahead) to Muang Khoua, Laos. For us it was the best option to get them arranger rather than stressing about them on our own, as we later found out. There were other destination options as well, like straight to Luang Prabang with one bus change.

Our disco-bus between Sapa and Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam. 

The first leg of the trip was a sleeper bus from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu and it cost 320 000VND, leaving an hour later than normal at around 19.00pm. I had been to sleeper busses in Borneo and in Mexico, but this was a bit more hard core and I really recommend to leave all luggage to the trunk, because there just was not that much space for all the people. There was also disco lights and the entertainment system on, bring earplugs. The first stop was after 2h ride where one could eat and go to toilet. Then the rest of the trip then was non-stop, with some avalance stops on the way when the guys ran outside to move the fallen rocks. All in all it was a rather bumpy ride on a dirt road, but we reached Dien Bien Phu earlier than we thought, already at 04.50am.

Minibus from Dien Bien Phu over the Vietnam-Laos border. 

At the bus station there was enough time to go to the toilet and have a coffee while we waited for the next leg to Muang Khoua to start. The driver and the other workers were collecting the travelers all around from other busses and our backpacks were taken to the next sleeper bus to Luang Prabang, so, there was a bit of hassle, but nothing much. The next bus was of course mini style, with seating and some local lads. That took us over the border with some other Westeners, starting at 5.30am. Of course it was raining heavily throughout the whole trip but we did not have to move that much rocks on the way. This trip cost us 200 000VND. It was a bit more than if you bought the ticket from Dien Bien Phu, but as the trip had been so smooth, it was totally worth to get the tickets from Sapa for the whole way.

Sleeping in the bus. 

Because we were in the small bus, it was rather effortless for us to get over with the border formalities at both sides in Tay Trang. On the Vietnam border there is a possibility to change VND to Kip, and it is highly recommendable to do so! We changed something like $10 and it was enough for the extra expenses on the Laos border station. The visas (on arrival) we paid with the dollars we had saved for this. On the Vietnam border we first changed money and then got stamped out of the country. Then we showed the stamping to another official at a small booth, jumped back to the bus and continued for a few kilometers through the border area to Laos border site.

Laos visa on arrival costs different amount for different nationalities (between $30-45) and for us it was $35. Be sure you have the correct amount of dollars in your pockets, or you will be overcharged to the maximum/exchange rate will be beyond understanding. The first step was to give your passport and one passport size photo to the officials, then collect and fill in the visa forms and the arrival/departure cards, give them again to the officials with your passport. Then you pay the visa fee in dollars and move on to the next counter. The next counter is for paying the border arrival fee (10 000Kip), stamping fee (10 000 Kip, higher on the weekends) and the fee for taking your temperature (3000Kip). The temperature was taken very quickly and without a notice while you were still filling out the forms with a gun type of thermometer that was placed on your forehead. These 3 amounts are normally paid in Laos Kip.

After the procedure with visas and stamping we were able to move on to Muang Khoua. The arrival time to our destination was around 11.00am.

Night fall in Muang Khua.

Night fall in Muang Khua.

Later in the evening we hoped that we will still have the departure cards with us when we get to Laos border station again!

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